Failing to make any big dent in the election hopes for the incumbent party in the Gujarat government, i.e. BJP, now Rahul Gandhi is back to what he is best at, practicing the nuances of shoot and scoot politics. In the latest of his illogical barbs aimed at the Central Government, he has accused the central government of playing it dirty in the multibillion dollar deal on the esteemed Rafale fighter planes that was executed between the Indian government and the Dassault Aviation [supervised by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar] and allegedly completing the deal without the actual transfer of technology.
It all started with a series of tweets posted by the official Twitter handle of the Congress heir apparent, as posted on 15th November:-
Modi ji – nice touch removing the suit. What about the loot?https://t.co/4rGsBtNJ2D
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 16, 2017
As observed, Rahul Gandhi happened to share an article posted by a lesser known news site Janta Ka Reporter, which raised some uncomfortable question apparently on the price at which the 36 planes were purchased from the French company which produced these planes.
According to Rahul Gandhi, the planes were purchased without following any formal procedure and the contract was awarded to Reliance Defence Limited, flouting all the provisions involved in a legal contract for the same, and promoting the interests of the Reliance Defence Limited, raking up the Modi Ambani nexus once again.
In his words, “There is a difference in the cost of aircraft in the first and the second contract. Did India pay more or less money in the second contract? Has the industrialist, who was given the contract, ever manufactured planes?” He also raised doubts on whether proper procedures were followed in signing the deal. “When Modiji went to France, he changed the Rafale contract without consulting anyone and awarded the contract to his industrialist friend, who knows nothing about aircraft-making,” Rahul alleged.
When the Reliance Defence Limited responded rather crossly to the false allegations, slipping in a hint of a possible defamation case against Rahul Gandhi as well, the soon to be Congress President tried to drag Narendra Modi into this slugfest. Though as common with shoot and scoot politicians, he refused to elaborate his claims or provide any solid evidence to the media, and he continued with his done and dusted rants of Modi being a closet capitalist and oppressing the poor masses for making his industrialist friends rich, indirectly hinting at middlemen being involved in the process, until one man found it too much to bear, and he decided to take Rahul Gandhi to cleaners for the same.
Noted lawyer and the incumbent Finance Minister Arun Jaitley decided to finally respond to the allegations posed by Rahul Gandhi. In a press conference conducted at Ahmedabad, Jaitley in a statement dripping with sarcasm, stated that the government had followed the procedure step by step, without getting their hands dirty. In his words, “It is a government-to-government deal and that is a different process. The other way is tendering. He (Gandhi) may be raising this issue because he does not have any experience in governance.”
Let it be known that the Rafale deal was formally signed upon in September 2016, when the BJP led NDA government purchased 36 Rafale fighter planes from the French government, at an approximate cost of Rs. 58000 crores. Going a step further in his response, Arun Jaitley shot back rather caustically at Rahul Gandhi, invoking the ghosts of Bofors scam.
In Arun Jaitley’s own words, “It (Rafale deal) was a government-to-government transaction, between two governments. It wasn’t like what used to happen during Congress governments, when middlemen used to be there in every transaction. There wasn’t any ‘Quattrocchi’ in this transaction.
The Rafale deal was made to boost the combat ability of the Indian Air Force”, he said. For those unaware of who Quattrocchi is, the man in question is the deceased broker Ottavio Quattrocchi, who was an Italian businessman and the main brain behind the notorious Bofors scam, that still haunts the aristocratic Nehru Gandhi family to this day.
Also responding to Rahul’s allegations involving Reliance Defence Limited, Mr. Jaitley said, “I wonder why the Congress leader is raising this issue now, as the transaction was done almost two-and-a-half years back. The very fact that it is being raised after two-and-a-half years indicates it is a motivated campaign linked to the election.” Since Gujarat legislative assembly elections as well as municipal election in many states, including Uttar Pradesh are being simultaneously, this retort isn’t completely baseless either.
Since it was a government-to-government transaction, the procedure was different. Another procedure is of tendering. He (Rahul Gandhi) is not having any experience of running a government. And, it is up to the company (Rafale) to choose its partner (in India). Government of India does not decide that,” Jaitley said.
Shri Jaitley isn’t far from the truth. Both Reliance Defense Limited and Dassault Aviation have confirmed that the deal between them was a separate joint venture altogether, with neither government being involved in the same. Dassault Aviation was technically not answerable and yet, they spoke in favor of their partner, imploring Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party to present their allegations with substantial evidence.
Interestingly, the article that Mr. Rahul Gandhi raked up as an alleged exposure of BJP’s tryst with scams has no solid evidence that can actually nail BJP in its backyard. There are no documents related to the alleged discrepancies deal, no photographs or letters related to the alleged contracts violating the established norms, not even a basic figure estimate that could actually bring out a clear picture regarding the Rafale deal. Just plain rhetoric ran throughout the article. Looks like Mr. Gandhi hasn’t learnt from the examples of Siddharth Varadarajan and Arvind Kejriwal, on how messing with the current government without any proper evidence or homework would cost their image dear.
Also, to put things simply, when the Rafale deal was made more than a decade ago, why was the incumbent UPA government sitting on it for years, adding unnecessarily to the cost of the deal. Had NDA government not struck the deal in 2014, and purchased the planes formally in 2016, the cost of the entire deal would’ve been disastrous to bear with. In a way, the Central Government has saved approximately Rs. 150-200 crores in this deal by not allowing it to delay further.
With that, Mr. Arun Jaitley has hit two birds with one stone: not only has he put forward the intention of the government crystal clear, but also he has left a warning for the wannabe Emperor of Delhi, mess with anyone but Jaitley, for he wouldn’t let you get away that easily, and Mr. Arvind Kejriwal knows that too well.
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